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Summary This category covers the main topics that have been the focus of the free will debate and over which compatibilists and determinists have argued. Topics like determinism and God's foreknowledge have been central to the debate, insofar as they raise parallel (apparent) challenges to our capacity to exercise free will. Moral responsibility is held by many to be at stake in the free will debate and it too been at the focus of attention. Fatalism, especially logical fatalism, is no longer central but there is a rich literature from earlier centuries much of which addressed issues related to those which remain central. Debate over whether free will requires alternative possibilities has always been lively: the advent of Frankfurt-style cases has given this debate new life for the past 4 decades.
Key works For a lively and penetrating selection of recent work on foreknowledge, see Fischer 1989Sobel 1998 is a central text on a range of problems to do with fatalims and determinism. Earman 1993 contains important work on determinism.Debate over alternative possibilities was revitalized by Frankfurt 1969Widerker & McKenna 2003 collects representative papers from among the very many on this increasingly complex debate.
Introductions Zagzebski 2002;Rice 2008; Earman 2004; Fischer 2002
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  1. FISCHER, LOUIS. Men and Politics.D. S. von Mohrenschildt - 1941 - Journal of Social Philosophy and Jurisprudence 7:89.
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  2. [Erasmus' Response to Luther's Defence of Scriptural Passages Opposing Free Will.DesideriusHG Erasmus - 2000 - In Controversies: Hyperaspistes 2. University of Toronto Press. pp. 446-566.
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  3. Freewill in the Modern World.Edward Quinn - 1940 - New Blackfriars 21 (245):459-464.
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  4. On Some Contrasts Due to Defects Close to a Free Surface.C. Colliex, B. Jouffrey & D. Taupin - 1969 - Philosophical Magazine 19 (160):673-687.
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  5. Al-Òhurråiyah Al-Insåanåiyah °Inda Al-Shåi°Ah Al-Ithn'a °Ashråiyah Fåi °Aòsr Al-Ta®Såis.Munâa Aòhmad Muòhammad Abåu Zayd - 2000
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  6. Persons the Strawsonian Tradition.Seth Barber - 1995
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  7. On Frankfurt's Explanation of Respect for People.Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) - 2002 - MIT Press.
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Alternative Possibilities
  1. The Robustness Requirement on Alternative Possibilities.Taylor W. Cyr - forthcoming - The Journal of Ethics:1-19.
    In a series of recent papers, Justin Capes and Philip Swenson (together) and Michael Robinson (independently) have proposed new versions of the flickers of freedom reply to Frankfurt-style cases (FSCs). Both proposals claim, first, that what agents in FSCs are morally responsible for is performing a certain action on their own, and, second, that agents in FSCs retain robust alternative possibilities—alternatives in which the agent freely omits to perform the pertinent action on their own. In this paper, I argue that, (...)
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  2. Compatibilist Libertarianism: Why It Talks Past the Traditional Free Will Problem and Determinism Is Still a Worry.John Daniel Wright - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-19.
    Compatibilist libertarianism claims that alternate possibilities for action at the agential level are consistent with determinism at the physical level. Unlike traditional compatibilism about alternate possibilities, involving conditional or dispositional accounts of the ability to act, compatibilist libertarianism offers us unqualified modalities at the agential level, consistent with physical determinism, a potentially big advance. However, I argue that the account runs up against two problems. Firstly, the way in which the agential modalities are generated talks past the worries of the (...)
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  3. Molinism: Explaining Our Freedom Away.Nevin Climenhaga & Daniel Rubio - 2022 - Mind 131 (522):459-485.
    Molinists hold that there are contingently true counterfactuals about what agents would do if put in specific circumstances, that God knows these prior to creation, and that God uses this knowledge in choosing how to create. In this essay we critique Molinism, arguing that if these theses were true, agents would not be free. Consider Eve’s sinning upon being tempted by a serpent. We argue that if Molinism is true, then there is some set of facts that fully explains both (...)
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  4. Dependence and the Freedom to Do Otherwise.Taylor Cyr - forthcoming - Faith and Philosophy.
    An increasingly popular approach to reconciling divine foreknowledge with human freedom is to say that, because God’s beliefs depend on what we do, we are free to do otherwise than what we actually do despite God’s infallible foreknowledge. This paper develops a new challenge for this dependence response. The challenge stems from a case of backward time travel in which an agent intuitively lacks the freedom to do otherwise because of the time-traveler’s knowledge of what the agent will do, and (...)
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  5. Against (Modified) Buffer Cases.Justin A. Capes - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (3):711-723.
    I defend the principle of alternative possibilities against what are sometimes known as buffer cases, which are supposed by some to be counterexamples to the principle. I develop an existing problem with the claim that standard buffer cases are counterexamples to PAP, before responding to a recent attempt by Michael McKenna to modify the cases in a way that circumvents this problem. While McKenna’s strategy does avoid the problem, I argue that it faces a different difficulty. I conclude that buffer (...)
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  6. Freedom to Do Otherwise and the Contingency of the Laws of Nature.Jeff Mitchell - manuscript
    This article argues that the freedom of voluntary action can be grounded in the contingency of the laws of nature. That is, the possibility of doing otherwise is equivalent to the possibility of the laws being otherwise. This equivalence can be understood in terms of an agent drawing a boundary between self and not-self in the domains of both matter and laws, defining the extent of the body and of voluntary behaviour. In particular, the article proposes that we can think (...)
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  7. Libertarian Free Will and the Physical Indeterminism Luck Objection.Dwayne Moore - 2022 - Philosophia 50 (1):159-182.
    Libertarian free will is, roughly, the view that agents cause actions to occur or not occur: Maddy’s decision to get a beer causes her to get up off her comfortable couch to get a beer, though she almost chose not to get up. Libertarian free will notoriously faces the luck objection, according to which agential states do not determine whether an action occurs or not, so it is beyond the control of the agent, hence lucky, whether an action occurs or (...)
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  8. 50 Years of Responsibility Without Alternative Possibilities: Guest Editors’ Introduction.Jaster Romy & Keil Geert - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    2019 marked the 50th anniversary of Harry Frankfurt’s seminal paper ‘Moral responsibility without alternate possibilities’. The paper set an avalanche of research on the role of alternative possibilities for freedom and responsibility in motion which has not abated to this day. A good 50 years later, the debate over Frankfurt’s central argument and its implications is still very much alive. [...].
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  9. A Puzzle About the Fixity of the Past.Fabio Lampert - forthcoming - Analysis.
    It is a widely held principle that no one is able to do something that would require the past to have been different from how it actually is. This principle of the fixity of the past has been presented in numerous ways, playing a crucial role in arguments for logical and theological fatalism, and for the incompatibility of causal determinism and the ability to do otherwise. I will argue that, assuming bivalence, this principle is in conflict with standard views about (...)
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  10. Christ and the Principle of Alternative Possibilities.Randall Kenneth Johnson - 2021 - Journal of Analytic Theology 9:314-321.
    Classical Christology provides reason to reject the principle of alternative possibilities [PAP]. The Gethsemane prayer highlights an instance in which Jesus Christ performs a voluntary and morally significant action which he could not have done otherwise, namely, Christ’s submission to God’s will. Two classical Christological doctrines undermine PAP: impeccability, and volitional non-contrariety. Classical Christology teaches that Christ could not sin, and that Christ’s human will could not be contrary to his divine will. Yet, classical Christology also teaches that Christ’s death (...)
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  11. God’s Impossible Options.Kenneth L. Pearce - 2021 - Faith and Philosophy 38 (2):185-204.
    According to Michael Almeida, reflections on free will and possibility can be used to show that the existence of an Anselmian God is compatible with the existence of evil. These arguments depend on the assumption that an agent can be free with respect to an action only if it is possible that that agent performs that action. Although this principle enjoys some intuitive support, I argue that Anselmianism undermines these intuitions by introducing impossible options. If Anselmianism is true, I argue, (...)
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  12. Moral Responsibility for Actions and Omissions: The Asymmetry Thesis Rejected.David Palmer & Yuanyuan Liu - 2021 - Erkenntnis 86 (5):1225-1237.
    There is an important contemporary debate in moral responsibility about whether the following asymmetry thesis is true: moral responsibility for actions does not require alternative possibilities but moral responsibility for omissions does. In this paper, we do two things. First, we consider and reject a recent argument against the asymmetry thesis, contending that the argument fails because it rests on a false view about the metaphysics of omissions. Second, we develop and defend a new argument against the asymmetry thesis, one (...)
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  13. Quantum Propensities in the Brain Cortex and Free Will.Danko D. Georgiev - 2021 - Biosystems 208:104474.
    Capacity of conscious agents to perform genuine choices among future alternatives is a prerequisite for moral responsibility. Determinism that pervades classical physics, however, forbids free will, undermines the foundations of ethics, and precludes meaningful quantification of personal biases. To resolve that impasse, we utilize the characteristic indeterminism of quantum physics and derive a quantitative measure for the amount of free will manifested by the brain cortical network. The interaction between the central nervous system and the surrounding environment is shown to (...)
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  14. Free Will, Determinism, and the Right Levels of Description.Leonhard Menges - 2021 - Philosophical Explorations 25 (1):1-18.
    ABSTRACT Recently, many authors have argued that claims about determinism and free will are situated on different levels of description and that determinism on one level does not rule out free will on another. This paper focuses on Christian List’s version of this basic idea. It will be argued for the negative thesis that List’s account does not rule out the most plausible version of incompatibilism about free will and determinism and, more constructively, that a level-based approach to free will (...)
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  15. Actual Sequences, Frankfurt-Cases, and Non-Accidentality.Heering David - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    There are two tenets about free agency that have proven difficult to combine: (i) free agency is grounded in an agent’s possession or exercise of their reasons-responsiveness, (ii) only actual sequence features (not alternative possibilities) can ground free agency (conclusion of Frankfurt-Cases). This paper argues that (i) and (ii) can only be reconciled if we recognise that their clash is just the particular manifestation of a wider conflict between two approaches to the notion of non-accidentality. According to modalism, p is (...)
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  16. A Problem for Frankfurt Examples.Samuel J. M. Kahn - 2021 - Southwest Philosophy Review 37 (1):159-167.
    In this paper I intend to raise a problem for so-called Frankfurt examples. I begin by describing the examples and what they are used for. Then I describe the problem.
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  17. Kant’s Reply to the Consequence Argument.Matthé Scholten - 2021 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 29 (2):135-158.
    In this paper, I show that Kant’s solution to the third antinomy is a reply sui generis to the consequence argument. If sound, the consequence argument yields that we are not morally responsible for our actions because our actions are not up to us. After expounding the modal version of the consequence argument advanced by Peter van Inwagen, I show that Kant accepts a key inference rule of the argument as well as a requirement of alternate possibilities for moral blame. (...)
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  18. Why Frankfurtian All-in Can’Ts Are Irrelevant to Free Will.Keil Geert - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65.
    This paper argues that Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) do not compromise the agent’s ability to decide otherwise. In his attack on the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, Frankfurt relied on what Austin called the ‘all-in’ sense of ‘can’, and misconstrued the agent’s inability to do otherwise as an all-in can’t. Like the new dispositionalists, I maintain that the agent’s relevant abilities are ‘masked’ rather than lost in Frankfurt cases. The argument from masked abilities, however, is not confined to a compatibilist construal of (...)
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  19. Agentive und andere Fähigkeiten: Bemerkungen zu Agents' Abilities von Romy Jaster.David Löwenstein - 2020 - Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 74 (3):448-453.
    Agents' Abilities ist ein Geschenk von einem Buch, das man nicht genug loben kann. Und deswegen versuche ich es erst gar nicht. Stattdessen beschränke ich mich auf einige konstruktiv-kritische Bemerkungen, die in zwei miteinander verbundenen Bereichen Perspektiven der Weiterentwicklung und Verfeinerung aufzeigen sollen.
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  20. A Fundamental Failure of Frankfurt’s Agentic Counterfactual Intervention: No Agency.Joseph de la Torre Dwyer - 2020 - Philosophia 49 (2):633-642.
    Frankfurt’s “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” made an important intervention into the literature on moral responsibility via a classical Frankfurt-type example, arguing that “the principle of alternate possibilities” is false. This paper argues that classical Frankfurt-type examples fail due to the use of agentic counterfactual interventions who lack agency. Using finite state machines to illustrate, I show the models that classical Frankfurt-type examples must use and why they are incongruent with leeway incompatibilist beliefs—the motivating interlocutor for classical Frankfurt-type examples. I (...)
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  21. How (Not) to Think About the Sense of 'Able' Relevant to Free Will.Simon Kittle - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    This essay is an investigation into the sense of ‘able’ relevant to free will, where free will is understood as requiring the ability to do otherwise. I argue that van Inwagen’s recent functional specification of the relevant sense of ‘able’ is flawed, and that explicating the powers involved in free will shall likely require paying detailed attention to the semantics and pragmatics of ‘can’ and ‘able’. Further, I argue that van Inwagen’s promise-level ability requirement on free will is too strong. (...)
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  22. Nihil Obstat: Lewis’s Compatibilist Account of Abilities.Helen Beebee, Maria Svedberg & Ann Whittle - 2020 - The Monist 103 (3):245-261.
    In an outline of a paper found amongst his philosophical papers and correspondence after his untimely death in 2001—“Nihil Obstat: An Analysis of Ability,” reproduced in this volume—David Lewis sketched a new compatibilist account of abilities, according to which someone is able to A if and only if there is no obstacle to their A-ing, where an obstacle is a ‘robust preventer’ of their A-ing. In this paper, we provide some background context for Lewis’s outline, a section-by-section commentary, and a (...)
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  23. The Ability to Do Otherwise and the New Dispositionalism.Romy Jaster - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    According to the New Dispositionalist’s response to the Frankfurt Cases, Jones can do otherwise because Black merely masks (or finks), but does not deprive Jones of the relevant ability. This reasoning stands in the tradition of a line of thought according to which an informed view of the truth conditions of ability attributions allows for a compatibilist stance. The promise is that once we understand how abilities work, it turns out that the ability to do otherwise is compatible with determinism, (...)
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  24. Sceptical Deliberations.Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (3):383-408.
    Suppose I am a leeway sceptic: I think that, whenever I face a choice between two courses of action, I lack true alternatives. Can my practical deliberation be rational? Call this the Deliberation Question. This paper has three aims in tackling it. Its constructive aim is to provide a unified account of practical deliberation. Its corrective aim is to amend the way that philosophers have recently framed the Deliberation Question. Finally, its disputative aim is to argue that leeway sceptics cannot (...)
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  25. The Reality of Free Will.Claus Janew - 2020 - Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 11 (1):1-16.
    The uniqueness of each viewpoint, each point of effect, can be "overcome" only by changing the viewpoint to other viewpoints and returning. Such an alternation, which can also appear as constant change, makes up the unity of the world. The wholeness of an alternation, however, is a consciousness structure because of the special relationship between the circumscribing periphery and the infinitesimal center. This process structure unites determinacy and indeterminacy at every point also totally. We are dealing, therefore, with forms of (...)
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  26. Frankfurt Cases and 'Could Have Done Otherwise'.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    In his seminal essay, Harry Frankfurt argued that our exercise of free will and allocation of moral responsibility do not depend on us being able to do other than we did. Leslie Allan defends this moral maxim from Frankfurt's attack. Applying his character-based counterfactual conditional analysis of free acts to Frankfurt's counterexamples, Allan unpacks the confusions that lie at the heart of Frankfurt's argument. The author also explores how his 4C compatibilist theory measures up against Frankfurt’s conclusions.
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  27. What’s Wrong with the Consequence Argument: A Compatibilist Libertarian Response.Christian List - 2019 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 119 (3):253-274.
    The most prominent argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism is Peter van Inwagen’s consequence argument. I offer a new diagnosis of what is wrong with this argument. Proponents and critics typically accept the way the argument is framed, and only disagree on whether the premisses and rules of inference are true. I suggest that the argument involves a category mistake: it conflates two different levels of description, namely, the physical level at which we describe the world from (...)
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  28. Que tipo de determinação é compatível com que tipo de liberdade? – Uma resposta a Marcelo Fischborn.Gilberto Gomes - 2019 - Filosofia Unisinos 2 (20):113-127.
    While agreeing with Fischborn’s (2018) contention that, according to one traditional definition of compatibilism, my position should be classified as that of a libertarian incompatibilist, I argue here for a different view of compatibilism. This view involves, on the one hand, local probabilistic causation of decisions (rather than universal strict determinism) and, on the other, free will conceived as involving decisions generated by a decision-making process carried out by the brain, which consciously contemplates different alternatives and could in principle have (...)
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  29. Luckily, We Are Only Responsible for What We Could Have Avoided.Philip Swenson - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):106-118.
    This paper has two goals: (1) to defend a particular response to the problem of resultant moral luck and (2) to defend the claim that we are only responsible for what we could have avoided. Cases of overdetermination threaten to undermine the claim that we are only responsible for what we could have avoided. To deal with this issue, I will motivate a particular way of responding to the problem of resultant moral luck. I defend the view that one's degree (...)
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  30. Flickers of Freedom and Moral Luck.Carolina Sartorio - 2019 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 43 (1):93-105.
    Midwest Studies In Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  31. The Problem of Free Will and Determinism: An Abductive Approach.Kristin M. Mickelson - 2019 - Social Philosophy and Policy 36 (1):154-172.
    This essay begins by dividing the traditional problem of free will and determinism into a “correlation” problem and an “explanation” problem. I then focus on the explanation problem, and argue that a standard form of abductive (i.e. inference to the best-explanation) reasoning may be useful in solving it. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of the abductive approach, I apply it to three standard accounts of free will. While each account implies the same solution to the correlation problem, each implies a unique (...)
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  32. Frankfurt-Type Examples, Obligation, and Responsibility.Ishtiyaque Haji - 2006 - The Journal of Ethics 10 (3):255-281.
    I examine John Martin Fischer's attempt to block an argument for the conclusion that without alternative possibilities, morally deontic judgments (judgments of moral right, wrong, and obligation) cannot be true. I then criticize a recent attempt to sustain the principle that an agent is morally blameworthy for performing an action only if this action is morally wrong. I conclude with discussing Fisher's view that even if causal determinism undermines morally deontic judgments, it still leaves room for other significant moral assessments (...)
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  33. Incommensurable Goods, Alternative Possibilities, and the Self-Refutation of the Self-Refutation of Determinism.Michael Baur - 2005 - American Journal of Jurisprudence 50 (1):165-171.
    In his paper, "Free Choice, Incommensurable Goods and the Self-Refutation of Determinism,"' Joseph Boyle seeks to show how the argument for the self-refutation of determinism - first articulated over twenty-five years ago - is an argument whose force depends on (first) a proper understanding of just what free choice is, and (secondly) a proper understanding of how free choice is a principle of moral responsibility. According to Boyle, a person can make a genuinely free choice only if he is presented (...)
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  34. Time, Leeway, and the Laws of Nature: Why Humean Compatibilists Cannot Be Eternalists.Andrei A. Buckareff - 2019 - Metaphysica 20 (1):51-71.
    Humean compatibilism combines a Humean conception of laws of nature with a strong dual-ability condition for free will that requires that agents possess the ability to decide differently when they make a free decision. On the Humean view of laws of nature, laws of nature are taken to be contingent non-governing descriptions of significant regularities that obtain in the entire history of the universe. On Humean compatibilism, agents are taken to possess dual ability when making free decisions because what the (...)
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  35. Free Will, Determinism and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise.Ewan Rodgers - 2015 - Lse Philosophy Blog.
    Can free will exist in a deterministic universe? In “Free Will, Determinism, and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise”, Christian List argues that it can.
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  36. Moral Responsibility Without General Ability.Taylor W. Cyr & Philip Swenson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):22-40.
    It is widely thought that, to be morally responsible for some action or omission, an agent must have had, at the very least, the general ability to do otherwise. As we argue, however, there are counterexamples to the claim that moral responsibility requires the general ability to do otherwise. We present several cases in which agents lack the general ability to do otherwise and yet are intuitively morally responsible for what they do, and we argue that such cases raise problems (...)
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  37. Freedom of the Will: A Conditional Analysis. [REVIEW]Simon Kittle - 2013 - Disputatio 5 (37):368-374.
  38. Does Everyone Think the Ability to Do Otherwise is Necessary for Free Will and Moral Responsibility?Simon Kittle - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (4):1177-1183.
    Christopher Franklin argues that, despite appearances, everyone thinks that the ability to do otherwise is required for free will and moral responsibility. Moreover, he says that the way to decide which ability to do otherwise is required will involve settling the nature of moral responsibility. In this paper I highlight one point on which those usually called leeway theorists - i.e. those who accept the need for alternatives - agree, in contradistinction to those who deny that the ability to do (...)
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  39. Indirectly Free Actions, Libertarianism, and Resultant Moral Luck.Robert J. Hartman - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85 (6):1417-1436.
    Martin Luther affirms his theological position by saying “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Supposing that Luther’s claim is true, he lacks alternative possibilities at the moment of choice. Even so, many libertarians have the intuition that he is morally responsible for his action. One way to make sense of this intuition is to assert that Luther’s action is indirectly free, because his action inherits its freedom and moral responsibility from earlier actions when he had alternative possibilities and (...)
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  40. Agents’ Abilities.Romy Jaster - 2020 - Berlin, New York: De Gruyter.
    In the book, I provide an account of what it is for an agent to have an ability. According to the Success View, abilities are all about success across possible situations. In developing and applying the view, the book elucidates the relation between abilities on the one hand and possibility, counterfactuals, and dispositions on the other; it sheds light on the distinction between general and specific abilities; it offers an understanding of degrees of abilities; it explains which role intentions and (...)
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  41. Doing One's Best, Alternative Possibilities, and Blameworthiness.Carlos J. Moya - 2014 - Critica 46 (136):3-26.
    My main aim in this paper is to improve and give further support to a defense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) against Frankfurt cases which I put forward in some previous work. In the present paper I concentrate on a recent Frankfurt case, Pereboom's "Tax Evasion". After presenting the essentials of my defense of PAP and applying it to this case, I go on to consider several objections that have been (or might be) raised against it and argue (...)
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  42. Kant, Ought Implies Can, the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, and Happiness.Samuel Kahn - 2018 - Lexington Books.
    This book examines three issues: the principle of ought implies can ; the principle of alternate possibilities ; and Kant’s views on the duty to promote one’s own happiness. It argues that although Kant was wrong to deny such a duty, the part of his denial that rests on a conception of duty incorporating both OIC and PAP is sound.
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  43. When is an Alternative Possibility Robust?Simon Kittle - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):199-210.
    According to some, free will requires alternative possibilities. But not any old alternative possibility will do. Sometimes, being able to bring about an alternative does not bestow any control on an agent. In order to bestow control, and so be directly relevant qua alternative to grounding the agent's moral responsibility, alternatives need to be robust. Here, I investigate the nature of robust alternatives. I argue that Derk Pereboom's latest robustness criterion is too strong, and I suggest a different criterion based (...)
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